Aminophylline therapy does not improve outcome and increases adverse effects in children hospitalized with acute asthmatic exacerbations

Pediatrics. 1994 Feb;93(2):205-10.


Objective: To evaluate the effects of aminophylline (Am) in children hospitalized with asthma.

Methods: Prospective, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Subjects were children between the ages of 5 and 18 years admitted for asthma exacerbation to either a tertiary care children's hospital or an inner-city general hospital in New York. Exclusion criteria were admission to the intensive care unit, initial theophylline level > 5 micrograms/dL, or the presence of other systemic disorders. All patients received nebulized albuterol therapy and intravenous glucocorticosteroids in standardized doses. Thirty-one patients were randomized to receive either an Am bolus followed by continuous Am infusion or placebo (P) bolus and infusion. The outcome variables were: duration of hospitalization, percent of predicted peak expiratory flow rates recorded at 12-hour intervals, number of albuterol treatments required, and adverse effects.

Results: There were no significant differences at study entry in age, sex, race, number of previous hospital admissions, prior medications used, clinical symptom scores, or initial peak flow rates for the two groups. For 26 patients who completed this study, 15 patients in the P group were hospitalized for a mean duration of 2.33 +/- 1.3 days, whereas 11 patients in the Am group required 2.58 +/- 1.5 days. There were no significant differences between the two groups for hospital days, peak flow rates at any time interval, or amount of albuterol therapy required (P > .2). In the Am group, 6 of the 14 patients who entered the study experienced significant adverse effects consisting of nausea, emesis, headache, abdominal pain, and palpitations. Only 1 of 17 patients in the P group had an adverse effect (P < .05).

Conclusions: There is no benefit and considerable risk of adverse effects associated with the use of Am in hospitalized asthmatic children.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Adolescent
  • Albuterol / therapeutic use
  • Aminophylline / adverse effects
  • Aminophylline / therapeutic use*
  • Asthma / drug therapy*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • Female
  • Hospitalization
  • Humans
  • Length of Stay
  • Male
  • Methylprednisolone / therapeutic use
  • Prospective Studies
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Aminophylline
  • Albuterol
  • Methylprednisolone